With her Richmond softball teammates cheering her on, Emma Valley crosses home plate during a timed run around the bases during practice Wednesday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

It’s been a long time coming for newly appointed Lisbon softball head coach Nikki Austin.

“It’s an unique time to start my varsity coaching career, but it’s been exciting and fun so far,” said Austin, who replaces Terri Tlumac. “Obviously, I wish the situation surrounding us was better, but I’m ready to go and so is the team.”

Tlumac is the new softball coach at Mt. Ararat.

The Greyhounds enter this year with all eyes on the future under first year head coach and former Lisbon standout.

“We have a small team with not much experience, so we’ve been building up our fundamentals and getting their feet under them,” said Austin, who was a member of the 1992 Lisbon softball team that won the Class C state title. “I’m trying to keep the expectations to a minimum this year, we’re definitely in what you could call a rebuilding phase in the program,” she said.

Modifications are in place this spring because of coronavirus safety concerns. For example, umpires will be calling pitches six feet behind the catcher, rather than the traditional position behind the plate.

“It’ll be different and something we have to get used to, but I’ve been thinking how we can get better, not about things that are out of our control,” said Freeport coach Jason Daniel. “We aren’t the only team who will be dealing with that.”

Added Morse head coach Wilfred Laffley: “The girls have been asking me a bunch of questions, I tell them every time just to worry about themselves and their own game.”

Laffley added that he has some questions with the modifications.

Richmond’s Nicole Tribbet pitches during practice Wednesday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“No one else is allowed in the pitchers circle other than the pitcher, so I’m curious to see how coaches communicate during a mound visit,” he said. “Of course there are bigger things to worry about, but there are a few issues within the protocols that should be addressed.”

Brunswick softball head coach Hugh Dwyer — who has just one senior on the roster — said he is approaching the season with an open mind.

“We won’t lose our perspective that these opportunities are not to be taken for granted, which I have emphasized to the team,” said Dwyer, who is now in his eighth season. “On the field, we’re excited about this team’s opportunities with the level of skill that has been shown this preseason.”

Morse returns five seniors who have started since they were freshmen year.

“Our upperclassmen are strong and experienced and will help lead our inexperienced players,” said Laffley. “We have all the components to make some noise this season.”

Richmond’s Bryannah Shea pitches during practice Wednesday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Laffley has 27 players in the program, which is comparable to what the Shipbuilders have seen in previous seasons. Brunswick, meanwhile, has 26 players out. Freeport is down a couple players, with just 20 players in the program this year.

“We are young but all my starters have a solid foundation to their game,” said Daniel. “We have just two returning starters so our underclassmen will get a lot of varsity experience early on.”

In Richmond, coach Tony Martin was forced to call up eighth-graders so he could field a full roster.

“We had nine players at tryouts; that wasn’t going to cut it,” said Martin. “The numbers are down but our attitudes are not, and it will be interesting to see how the season unfolds for us. … We are an unknown, this is new for us. I only four kids for us that have had me as a coach before, so there will be a learning curve for us.”

Comments are not available on this story.